Egypt was #1 on our ‘bucket list.’ We have both wanted to visit since we were children and our trip did not disappoint. At the time almost everyone told us that it was a bad idea to go as ‘it was not safe’. This opinion was not based on any knowledge of course, just the normal fear mongering and general ignorance that today’s society seems to relish in. We had a totally awesome time, our best trip ever. Because everyone was busy at home trembling behind the curtains and talking nonsense, Egypt was empty of tourists, we had colossal temples all to ourselves and the beaches were empty. This must see guide is unsurprisingly mostly about ancient history, as Egypt is mainly about ancient history. It is common to get ‘tombed out’ while touring around, we certainly did. This place has more truly fascinating sites than anywhere on Earth, we think that EVERYONE should make sure they see them it at some point.
Now, is a very exiting time to go too. ‘Conventional’ Egyptology is on its knees, the Victorian para-dimes are falling apart and a new history is coming into view. This new history is for the first time based on solid evidence, not speculation and deep set belief. The pioneers of this science are the likes of Graham Hancock, John Anthony West, Robert Bauval and Robert M. Schloch. You must read their works before going, the Egyptologist tour guides are generally useless and will give you nothing but the old paradime. I did much research before I went and enjoyed asking them very awkward questions that made them squirm and tie themselves in knots!
This is the place that I absolutely insist that you go before you die. If you go nowhere else ever again, go to the Giza plateau. This is home to the most astonishing monuments that mankind has ever created (that we know of anyway). The Great Sphinx stands sentinel, gazing at the horizon in the East, a view it has taken in for at least nine thousand years. The three Pyramids stand mirroring the Orions belt constilation, tombs they were certainly not. The Sphinx temple, constructed of colossal blocks and fitted together by the proverbial Swiss clockmaker may be ancient beyond belief. Today an air conditioned museum stands next to the pyramids and houses the ‘solar boat’, a seaworthy craft de-constructed and buried in a pit thousands of years ago. When nomadiclifeguide visited, we were lucky enough to have the ‘Kings chamber’ in the Great Pyramid to ourselves for at least twenty minutes, ordinarily you can expect to share it with up to fifty people. Whilst there, you WILL be pestered by people wanting you to take a camel ride. They will tell you allsorts to try to get you to take one “the sand is soft” “the walk is far” you just don’t need one. They will give you the old redundant history too, not useful.
The Cairo museum has been called “the greatest archeological dig waiting to happen” The visitor sees only a tiny proportion of the collection, vast storage rooms contain untold treasures beneath your feet. Almost nothing is labelled, even less in English and the whole place has a higgledy piggledy feel to it. The ‘mummy room’ contains the remains of the great Pharaohs and the Tutankhamen exhibit showcases some of the greatest treasures ever found.
This great step pyramid and associated tombs ten miles South East of Giza is one of the most important sites in Egypt. A chamber underneath the pyramid contains the ‘Pyramid texts’ a full description of which cannot be given here, but see https://grahamhancock.com/great-pyramid-texts-harveych/ for the fascinating history.
‘The temple of man’ was first decoded by Schwaller de Lubicz who studied the symbology of this temple for many, many years. For anyone into symbolism this place is the centre of the world. The impression we got was that the temple had an awareness, like it was conscious in some way. Two obelisks once graced the entrance to the temple, one now stands in Paris. Sheer vandalism if you ask me, it needs returning.
Once connected to the Luxor temple by an avenue of Sphinx’s. After passing through the entrance portal you walk through a forest of gargantuan pillars and meander through courtyards past vast, mirror like pools. It feels like it would be easy to get lost in here and it probably would, this is the second largest religious site in the world.
Aswan high Dam
Not exactly a must see but it has to be mentioned. Built between 1960 and 1970 and thought critical to the industrialisation of Egypt. Little regard was given to anything other than the project. Wildlife was decimated, ancient temples drowned, lands and villages flooded. I wonder the ancients would have made of it.
This double temple is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and falcon god Haroeris. Vast amounts of surgical implements were found in an underground chamber and over three hundred crocodile mummies have been found in the surrounding area. Some of which are on display in a small museum.
Built over a New kingdom temple, the temple of Horus is one of the best preserved in all of Egypt. The inscriptions carved deep into the wall are a cut down version of a far, far older text, a history of the world that is only now being rediscovered.
This New Kingdom temple was drowned when the Aswan Dam was constructed. It has since been raised from the deep by UNESCO, and what a job they have done. The temple in its current form sits on an Island and a boat is needed to visit. If you were not told, you would never know it was submerged and reconstructed.
Colossi of Memnon
Two colossal stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III standing 18metres high and weighing in at over seven hundred tons a piece. The soft sandstone is heavily weathered and the right statue badly cracked. Worth seeing, one can only imagine what they looked like when newly finished, or how they were moved into their current position.
Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens
The burial place of the great Pharaohs of Egypt and their wives. Made famous by Howard Carter, the discoverer of Tutankhamen’s tomb, today you can enter this underground treasure house if you wish, but it is empty, very small and you have to pay extra. Don’t bother, the other tombs are far more spectacular, you should spend your time in those instead. The valley of the queens is kind of the same just less spectacular. Take lots of water and wear a hat, this is one of the hottest places on Earth.
Temple of Hatshepsut
The mortuary temple of Hatshepsut sits on the West bank of the Nile and is dedicated to the sun god Amun. It is just round the corner from the Valley of the Kings and you will probably do the two sites in the same day. Heavily restored but hugely impressive, you have to run a gauntlet of traders to get to the entrance.
The unfinished obelisk
Lying In the granite quarries of Aswan are the remains of one very ambitious building project. Intended for the temple of Hatshepsut, the obelisk was abandoned before completion as cracks started to appear. If completed it would have been 137feet high and weighed a staggering 1200 tonnes, how they would have moved it is anyone’s guess. Is that even possible?? Not by any means that we know of today anyway.
Only six of the fifty people on our boat managed this trip, the rest were too ill. The few who remained were not what anyone would call ‘well’ but we were there all the same. The day started at 3AM with a five hour drive through the desert and near to the border with Sudan. One bus toilet between six just about sufficed, albeit with the help of 12 packets of Immodium. On arrival the tour guide was trying to explain the site but the group were more concerned as to the location of the facilities should the need arise. The temple itself is amazing, not just for the ancient craftsmanship, but because this temple is also a drowned and raised one. UNESCO have once again done an incredible job of re-siting this temple, and have created a purpose built hill to house it. Twice a year the sun’s rays penetrate deep into the temple illuminating a statue of Ramesses II and an assortment of god’s. A very long day but an absolute must see.
‘Sound and light shows’
Rubbish. Who thought of this I don’t know. On certain evenings at Giza, Karnak and Abu Simbel you can pay lots of money to see the monuments lit up with coloured lights while a voice over goes through some kind of fictional historical narrative. Do not bother.
The Nile itself
The sunsets here are some of the best in the world and you just never know what your going to see. We witnessed traders in a rowing boat ‘lasso’ our cruise ship cowboy style, get towed along at high speed and sell clothing to people that were on the top deck by throwing stuff up to them. Crazy. You kind of have to buy something.
This one may not immediately spring to mind when considering a trip to Egypt, but the Nile is rich in many different species. Not as many as before the dam was built, but that’s ‘progress’ for you. We went on a specific wildlife watching trip and it was well worth it. Something different from the relentless history too, we saw some interesting habitats, interesting creatures and one very unusual fishing technique.
We ended our time in Egypt with a few nights stay at the Red sea resort of Hurghada. This is a lovely way to end a trip and it is much needed after a long itinerary that includes lots of early mornings. All inclusive paradise, nothing to do but lay down and relax……. However, We couldn’t eat anything because our stomachs had been so upset and the hotel was right by a coral reef. All we did was snorkel and drink water. That’s what you should do too, lots and lots of snorkelling, this is one of the best places in the world to do it so take advantage. Taking in the underwater world is one of the finest, most interesting and peaceful experiences on planet Earth. The beauty of this environment cannot be adequately written about and a camera cannot even begin to capture it. Go do it for yourself and see.
For most people a Nile cruise is the best way to see all the major sites of Egypt. They are excellent value for money and all the excursions are organised for you. Various levels of luxury are available from the quite basic (us) to the very luxurious (definitely not us), all meals are provided, there will be a bar and a small pool. We found sitting on the top deck watching the world go by to be a very nice relaxing experience. We met lots of nice people and had some great laughs. The whole trip, seven nights on the boat, all entrance fee’s, two nights in Cairo and five nights on the Red Sea cost us £1400 for both of us. That’s a bargain no matter how you look at it.
Dangers and annoyances
Despite being told repeatedly how dangerous it was, we felt quite safe throughout our travels in Egypt. There were plenty of annoyances however. Egypt had been starved of tourists for some time and anyone connected with the industry was feeling the pinch. This meant that they were extra specially keen to sell you things and pestered you to death. The best method is to just look ahead and walk past them, do not acknowledge them at all. Con artists try various tricks to get your money, keep your wits about you and view everything with a degree of suspicion. Single female travellers will be safe enough, they will receive lots of thinly veiled lewd comments though(“you want to see an Egyptian banana?”). Other than the above the Egyptian people were very friendly. You should not be put off by any of the above, they are just minor inconveniences that are easily dealt with, the rewards are seeing one of the most fascinating countries on Earth. GO!